Radical Foes Of Abortion Test Limits Of Protest

A NEW, extremist anti-abortion group, whose founders support ''justifiable homicide,'' are staging protests in St. Louis.

The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) plans protests today and tomorrow outside two local health clinics. The group is also targeting the homes of clinic doctors.

The protests are part of the ACLA's first national convention. They are being closely watched, in part because they may provide a glimpse at how much support this extremist group has among anti-abortion activists.

The ACLA was spawned last year when another group, ''Operation Rescue'' rejected the idea of justifiable homicide. Several ACLA leaders signed a petition calling the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn by an anti-abortion activist, ''justifiable homicide.''

The group has put out ''wanted posters'' depicting health clinic workers. ''We claim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child,'' says David Crane, a ACLA founder and the Southeast ACLA regional director.

ACLA leaders insist these protests will be peaceful. But the views espoused by the ACLA are rejected by most anti-abortion activists.

''There's no question in my mind that people like David Crane are in part responsible for the creation of a climate in this country that encourages violence,'' says Kate Michaelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in Washington. ''And that is unacceptable,'' she adds.

St. Louis abortion-rights supporters plan to escort doctors and patients during the protests.

''Our clinic will not close,'' says Vivian Diener, interim director of Reproductive Health Services.

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